Always A Bridesmaid (Left At the Altar) (8 page)

BOOK: Always A Bridesmaid (Left At the Altar)
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The ringing of Fiona's phone had them stalled before they reached the front door. She pulled the phone from her purse and checked the number. "I have to take this. It's my wedding planner."

Chantal threw up her hands. "Now what?"

"Don't worry, dear," Margaret soothed. "We'll get there. A nice massage will do you wonders."

Dani wondered if it could turn her into a nicer person, but that was probably too much to ask.

"Oh no!" Fiona said into the phone. "What are we going to do?"

She turned her attention to her friend's tense phone conversation. Whatever it was about, it didn't sound good.

"Okay Sonya, I'll take care of it," Fiona said as she scribbled something on a piece of paper. "I'll call you as soon as I can."

"Is there a problem?" Margaret asked.

Fiona looked close to panic. "There's huge problem. The bakery that made my wedding cake burned down last night. Everything was lost, including my cake."

"How awful for you, dear!" Margaret said.

Not so great for the bakery either.

"The wedding planner found another bakery willing to make a duplicate of my cake on short notice, but it's way out in Oakville and they won't deliver. I'll have to run out there and pick it up."

"But what about our mother-daughters spa day?" Margaret asked. "I was so looking forward to spending time with my girls. And Dani," she added as an afterthought.

"I know, so was I, but I have no choice. We'll do this another time, I promise."

Dani saw her chance for freedom and grabbed it.

"I can do it, Fee. I'll drive out to Oakville and pick up the cake, and you can go with your mother and sister to the spa."

"I couldn't ask you to that," she protested.

Please, please ask me!
"You're not asking, I'm volunteering. Think of it as my wedding present to you."

"How are you going to get there? You don't have a car."

Zach and the other men entered the foyer. "How is Dani going to get where? What's going on?" he asked.

Fiona filled him in on the situation. "Dani's offered to drive to Oakville, but she doesn't have a car."

"She can borrow my SUV," Camp said. He dug in his pocket for the keys, then handed them to Dani. "There you go. Drive safely."

"Wait," Zach said, placing his hand on her arm. "Doesn't the SUV have manual transmission? Can you drive a stick shift, Dani?"

"I have driven a stick shift, on occasion." That occasion happened to be her one and only experience with a manual transmission, and it hadn't gone well.

Zach read her hesitation. He took the keys from her hand. "I'll drive. You can navigate."

"Oh Zach, thank you," Fiona said, throwing her arms around his neck. "I feel so much better about you going with Dani. She doesn't know her way around the city like you do."

"Thanks for the vote of confidence." She felt like she'd been thrown from the frying pan into the fire. Instead of getting a reprieve from spending the afternoon with Chantal, she was now sentenced to hours of close contact with a man who didn't want to be in close contact with her.

"You'll need to take the cake to the hotel and make sure the wedding planner gets it," Fiona instructed. "And since the rehearsal dinner tonight is at the hotel, maybe you should take the clothes you're planning to wear. You can change in Todd's parents' suite. There's not going to be time for you to come back to the house."

"Don't worry, Fee. We'll take care of everything. I promise," Dani said. She kissed her cheek. "You just go and have a lovely afternoon."

"You'll call and let me know when you get the cake to the hotel?"

"Of course."

Fiona visibly relaxed. "Thanks so much, you two. I love you both."

"We love you, too. Now go, before your masseuse throws a hissy fit."

The three women hurried out the door. Foster clapped Zach on the back.

"I was looking forward to our afternoon at the dome. I'll have to beat you at golf another time."

"We'll get together soon. You guys have fun."

"Have fun, sweetie." Jonathan squeezed her hand and gave her a wink as he left. Dani looked up to see Zach staring at her.

"Adele and I will hold down the fort here," Camp said. "We'll see you at five o'clock at the church for the rehearsal."

Zach checked his watch. "We'd better get going. Grab whatever you want to wear tonight and I'll meet you out front with the SUV."

She ran upstairs to her room, stuffed her things into an overnight bag, and within ten minutes was racing down the front steps of the house to the waiting vehicle. She hoped the salesgirl wasn't blowing smoke when she promised her dress was wrinkle proof.

She hopped into the vehicle and tossed her bag in the back seat beside Zach's. Buckling herself in, she asked, "Do you know how to get to Oakville?"

He grinned. "Not a clue. But this baby has GPS. It'll get us there. What's the name of the bakery?"

She pulled Fiona's scrap of paper from her purse. "The High Tea Bakery." She gave him the address.

He set the coordinates and then put the SUV into gear. "Here goes nothing."

"In three hundred meters, turn left," the disembodied voice of the GPS droned in a cultured British accent.

"Whatever you say," Zach deadpanned.

They drove in silence through city streets following the GPS's directions until they finally reached the highway heading toward Oakville. Zach took the on ramp and merged with oncoming traffic.

"You seem very...friendly with Jonathan," he said, while looking straight ahead.

"He's a friendly guy," she said carefully.

"Yeah," he said, glancing quickly at her. "Be careful there. The last couple of years he's gone through girls like some guys go through socks. I wouldn't want you to be another notch on his bedpost."

"Don't worry. That's not going to happen." She knew that for a fact.

"I hope not. I don't want you to get hurt." He checked his side mirror, shoulder checked, and then changed lanes. "Listen, I'm sorry about man-handling you this morning. I didn't mean for that kiss to get so out of hand."

Her heart fell. That kiss had rocked her world, and he was sorry about it. She sat a little straighter in her seat and pasted a smile on her face as she faced him.

"Hey, it's no big deal. It was just a kiss."

He glanced at her before returning his attention to the road. "I'm glad you're not upset."

"Of course not."

Liar, liar, pants on fire.

The silence stretched on for several uncomfortable minutes, grating on her nerves. She hated the tension between them. Finally she took a deep breath and made herself smile. "Todd seems very nice. How long have you known him?"

"Since we had a freshman economics class together at U of Toronto. In fact, I was the one who introduced him to Fiona a few years ago, though I never dreamed they'd get married. I hope it works out, or I'm going to feel really bad."

"I know what you mean. Years ago I introduced my brother to one of my best friends and they fell hard for each other. They were standing at the altar, about to get married when Tony decided to stop the wedding." She told him how her brother believed Olivia didn't want to marry him, but was afraid to say anything, so he spoke up on her behalf. Unfortunately, he had the whole thing wrong. "In the end, it turned out well. They're back together now and completely blissful. But they spent eight unhappy years apart, for which I felt totally responsible."

"It wasn't your fault they couldn't tell each other how they really felt."

"I know. But it broke my heart to see them so unhappy. Especially Tony. He and I are very close."

"Tell me about your family. You said you have six older brothers."

"I do. What do you want to know?"

"As an only child, I guess I want to know what it's like to be part of a family that big. In case anyone asks," he added.

"It's chaotic and loud and sometimes totally crazy. There have been times when my brothers have embarrassed and humiliated me, and for two cents I'd sell them all to the first bidder. But when it comes right down to it, I love and cherish every one of the big lugs."

"You're very lucky."

"Yeah, I think so. We never had a lot of money, but we always had everything we needed and plenty of love." She turned in her seat to look at his beautiful profile. "You were pretty young when your dad died. Do you remember him?"

"I have snippets of memories of him," Zach said, his eyes on the road ahead. "I remember my mom and dad and me at the beach, and my dad chasing me through the shallow water. I remember Mom and Dad kissing. They were always kissing."

"They must have been very much in love."

"They were. I remember the funeral. The casket was black and my mother cried and cried. I remember thinking somebody should wake Dad up so Mom could stop crying."

"Oh Zach. I'm so sorry."

He shrugged it off. "I was only six. I didn't understand what was going on."

"How did he die?"

"An accident at work. He was a bricklayer and he fell off the roof of a house when he was working on the chimney. He wasn't given the proper safety equipment to be working up there. His employer was fined, but that didn't bring him back."

She felt angry on Zach's behalf. He lost his father because some boss couldn't be bothered to pay for the equipment that would save his life.

"What I like to remember is that my mother and I were loved. Maybe I've been looking for love like that all my life."

"Is that why you asked Chantal to marry you twice?"

He flashed a grin at her. "Are you trying to psychoanalyze me, Ms. Freud?"

She grinned back. "Maybe."

"I know what you're thinking. A person would have to be crazy to subject himself to that kind of humiliation a second time. Maybe you're right."

"Why
did
you ask Chantal to marry you the second time?" Dani held her breath, not sure if he would answer such a personal question, or if she had any business asking it.

"I was only nineteen the first time I proposed to her. Like Mom said, I'd been totally hooked on Chantal since I was sixteen. She was the most beautiful girl I'd ever seen, and so different from the other girls I knew. So poised, so elegant, and so damn sure of herself."

"And sure of her affect on men."

"Yeah, I guess so. Anyway, you heard the story about how she broke our engagement to marry a guy with a lot more money."

"Our friend Harry."

"Right. I wallowed in self-pity for a while and drove my mom crazy with my whinging. Eventually I got a scholarship to university and immersed myself in work. I dated other women, but no one seriously."

"Nothing could compare to that first love."

"No, I suppose not." He shook his head, as if brushing away old memories. "Then four years after our first engagement ended, Chantal entered my life again. She was divorced from Harry and I was still in university, still broke. We had a short, intense affair before she left."

"She left? Where did she go?"

"To Paris. She hadn't bothered to tell me she'd been planning to go to the Sorbonne all along. Just when I thought we could make it work this time, she said goodbye."

"That's awful."

"Yeah, but at least I didn't propose that time."

"I guess that's something to be grateful for. But I don't understand. She'd already dumped you twice. Why would you go back to her a third time?"

He took a deep breath. "That's a question I ask myself all the time. Two years ago when we met again, she was newly divorced from her second husband and wanted to pick up where we'd left off. I was hesitant at first, and I made her work hard to win back my trust. She said our first engagement didn't work because we were so young, but now we were older and we both knew what we wanted. And eventually, I believed her. So I asked her to marry me again and she said yes."

"Were you happy?"

"Yeah, very happy. But then I started noticing things I'd never noticed before, like the way she behaved toward other people. Sometimes she treated my mother like a servant. When I'd call her on it, she'd cry and say she was under so much pressure planning the wedding. I don't know if she'd always been like that or if I just started noticing it."

"Don't feel bad. I think she was different back when we were in university." She had loved Chantal like a sister when they were eighteen. But somehow she had morphed into one of the ugly step-sisters. Or maybe Dani had just grown up and seen her for what she was.

"I ignored all the warning signs, the late night phone calls that she said were to her wedding planner, the many trips to Toronto she claimed were to visit her sister. And, well, you know how it ended. You were at the church."

"If I really was Sigmund Freud, I'd probably say she only wanted you until she had you. Once the thrill of the pursuit was over, she lost interest."

He grinned wryly. "I've come to that sad conclusion myself."

"Admitting the problem is the first step to recovery."

Zach laughed and waved his hand, as if to wipe away the past. "Enough about my sad love life. What about you? What deep, dark secrets are you keeping?"

Her heart rate kicked up a notch. Her past love life wasn't as colorful as Zach's, but it was no less painful to her. She'd never talked about it to anyone, not even her closest friends. At least she never let on how much she'd been hurt by men she'd thought she'd been in love with.

The GPS voice sounded. "In five hundred meters turn right, then bear left."

"Oh look, we're in Oakville," she said.
Saved by The Voice.

Zach flashed her a look that told her he wouldn't let her forget this conversation.

Great
. Just what she needed.

Chapter Six

They followed the GPS's directions to the bakery, parked and went inside. A glass case displayed a mouth-watering selection of cupcakes frosted with thick chocolate and vanilla icing. Beside the cupcakes were arranged three different kinds of cheesecakes and a mile-high chocolate fudge cake. Dani felt her stomach growl in reaction.

Close your eyes and think of England.

BOOK: Always A Bridesmaid (Left At the Altar)
2.43Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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